The winter holidays bring a lot of traditions. And these traditions often bring bountiful memories of food. A few of our FoodMinders share some of their holiday food traditions and memories.
I celebrate Christmas in Canada every year with my family, and our Canadian holiday tradition is to have a Bûche de Nöel, or yule log cake. It’s a rolled cake that is meant to look like a fire log. Every year, my family fights over who is going to get the two ends of the log, since that’s where the most icing is. I’ve never won this fight, but I do always get the wafer that sits on top of the cake.
My holidays aren’t complete until I get an afternoon of holiday baking in. I love changing it up each year but some of my family’s favorites are snowball cookies, oatmeal walnut chocolate chip, gingersnaps, snickerdoodles, and of course classic iced sugar cookies. ‘Tis the season for delicious sweets!
After Halloween, Christmas Eve is my second favorite holiday because that’s when Italian-Americans across the nation celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes. The evening usually started with smoked salmon and bacon-wrapped shrimp as the family gathered around the fireplace while Mom finished getting the dining room ready. I’ll never forget the Oyster Stew she made one year, which I haven’t been able to replicate on my own since her passing eight years ago. Now, 800 miles away from my hometown, I still love to celebrate this delicious tradition with my husband – usually by finding an Italian restaurant nearby with a Seven Fishes menu.
My favorite holiday food tradition is my family’s Christmas morning breakfast. It’s a hodgepodge of leftovers from Christmas Eve dinner, Mom’s cheesy egg and potato casserole, the sticky buns our neighbor ritually drops off the day before, and an errant Christmas cookie or two. All the sweet and savory fuel you need for the frenzy of feverish gift unwrapping that immediately ensues!
Jean Owen Curran, MS, RD
A MacNab Christmas is a serious affair (or at least my family would like to think so). Prior to the holiday madness, my dad and his brother will hand make potato sausage and Glögg (think Christkindlmarket mulled wine, except ours is made with Brandy and a few other secret ingredients) given our Swedish and German roots, and my uncle will make loaves of my grandma’s famous fruitcake. Both the potato sausage and Glögg are served on Christmas Eve alongside an impressive spread of tasty side dishes including rice pudding with Lingonberries, Swedish meatballs and bacon-stuffed mushrooms. But a MacNab Christmas isn’t complete without the most unappetizing and repulsive dish of them all – lutefisk (pronounced LEWD-uh-fisk). A Norwegian favorite, lutefisk is dried cod soaked in lye and served with butter, salt and pepper. And best of all, we sing a song to the tune of ‘O Christmas Tree’ before we eat it – a tradition that my grandpa MacNab started years ago. Looking to join the MacNab family? You better bet that we’ll have a Lutefisk initiation waiting for you when you arrive.
Lindsay MacNab, MS, RD
I grew up in an Italian family, so in addition to the usual Christmas fare we always have a big plate of antipasti and pasta on our Christmas table. My grandma makes her sauce from scratch and uses an old family “recipe” for her ricotta-based gnocchi. She’s never written down instructions, so over the years I’ve done my best to keep careful notes so that we can keep the tradition alive for generations to come.
Lauren Shelar, MBA, RD